Background of Gestalt theory

background of Gestalt theory, believes of the theory, goals or objectives of this theory, strategies, criticism or limitations of the theory as well as conclusion.
background of Gestalt theory, believes of the theory, goals or objectives of this theory, strategies, criticism or limitations of the theory as well as conclusion.

Background of Gestalt theory

Background of Gestalt theory


This task comprises of the following; background of Gestalt theory, believes of the theory, goals or objectives of this theory, strategies, criticism or limitations of the theory as well as conclusion.


The word Gestalt is a German term which refers to “holistic”, “totality”, “configuration”, “pattern” or “form”. The gestalt theory was founded by Friedrich Salomon Perls (1870-1970). It was developed in the late 1940s. It is guided by the relational theory principle which states that every individual is a whole (mind, body and soul), and that they are best understood in relation to their current situation as he or she experiences it.

Gestalt theory; refers to a form of psychotherapy that comes from the Gestalt school of thought. It is one of the cognitive theories in counseling that originates from cognitive learning theory of Gestalt whose focus is on wholeness and insightful learning (Nwaogu, 2002).
The theory bases on looking a man as a “whole” and not a being of parts. It believes that a man is in holistic form and not in the separate components.

Therefore; feeling, thinking, and action that are essential components of man must be put together in understanding an individual. The approach combines this relational theory with present state-focusing strongly on self-awareness and the “here and now “(what is happening from one moment to the next).
In Gestalt therapy, self-awareness is a key to personal growth and developing full potential (Nwaogu, 2002).


Gestalts believe in the wholeness of the individual and not in the separate component of the individual (Lahey, 2001).
This means that, the theory believes that all essential components of man such as feelings, thinking and actions must be put together in order to understand an individual.

For example if the mother beat her child, Gestalt believes that the mother has beaten her child and not the hand of the mother beating the child. This is because the hand of the mother cannot be separated from the body and also does not act independent of the mother’s thought and feelings.

Gestalt theory also believes that, human beings are not determined by external or internal factors but rather they are free and have potentiality for change (Kassin, 1998).
This means that human beings are able to choose and implement their actions and can change according to what he/she likes or dislikes.

According to this theory an individual’s actions cannot be made or determined by genetic factor or environmental factor, rather they determine what to do themselves so they should also be held responsible for their action.
Gestalt theory believes that man is governed by the present happenings and not the past (Bourine & Ekstrand, 1976).

This implies that to understand human behavior the present happenings are more important to measure the potentiality rather than looking at their past experience or future. This is because human beings do change.
Gestalt theory believes that man is an active interactor with the environment (Nwaogu, 2002).

The gestalt theory takes man as an active organism because is able to choose and arranges the environment stimuli to suit his action. Therefore, man is an actor and not reactor to the environment. The man acts on the environment and the environment also acts on him.

Gestalt theory of counseling believes that man in neither good nor bad. This means that man is born without any coded experience or messages but with the environment he internalizes certain behaviors and experience that place him on weighing scale as either good or bad actions done.

Gestalt theory also believes that unhealthy individual develops when such individual pre-occupies himself with the happenings of the future rather than the present. The individual who always deals with expectations of the future actions always lives uncomfortably because never knows what the real event and action of could happen rather than being sure for the present happenings.

The gestalt theory believes that one way of attaining maturation and growth is through frustration. This is because frustration makes individual to reason and mobilize his resources to discover that he is able to do something on his own and can cope with the world.

Frustration enables growth and good health personality. For example a person who does not learn to overcome frustration has not grown and therefore he/she is not personality matured and remain dependant to solve the problem attacked him/her.


The major aims of gestalt theory of counseling are;
It enables an individual to build self independent; an individual realize that he or she needs not to depend on others. Therefore he or she is assisted to make a transition from environmental support to self support. Through self independent an individual is able to be conscious or aware to all happenings within the society hence build self awareness.

It brings an individual to live in the present; this means that an individual is stressed to live by looking on the here and now which is the present happenings rather than living through looking on the past experience or future expectations which exist only as they are shown in the present memory.

Enable individual to see things as a whole rather that in bits or in isolated bits; counseling aims at destroying the obstacle concerning individual’s wholeness.
Promote non judgmental self awareness that enhance a client to develop unique perspective on life


Gestalt theory helps to realize that man is a product of different situations. For example the school child is a product of both school and home. Some problems exhibited in the school situations by students are manifestations of the problem they carried over from home.

Another benefit of the theory is extracted from the assumption of responsibilities. For example when a student takes an examination and fails, the usual thing we here is that “the teacher failed me”. So the theory teaches student the habit of owning responsibility for the actions. In this way we have cause to examine our actions and become more responsible.


Gestalt theory has criticized psychoanalysis theory of counseling by saying that human is governed by the presents happenings while the psychoanalysis stated that the personality behavior of an individual in determined by the early childhood experience (Lahey, 2001).

Frits believes that, you cannot study the personality of an individual by look on the past experiences because human being under go changes unlike the psychoanalysis who believe that an individual is determined by the past experiences.

Also Gestalt theory of counseling has criticized the behaviorist theory by saying that human is an active interactor unlike the behaviorist theory which implies man as a passive element (Nwaogu, 2002).
This means that, Gestalts believe that human being is a controller of the environment; he/she is the one who act upon the environment while behaviorists believe that man is a reactor upon the environment.

There are contradiction between its theoretical position and the therapist practice, example the patient is expected to be independent responsible and take initiative. The therapist is not expected to interpret, active nor support. Normally the therapist direct every activity to the patient since the role of therapist is to have an authority figure.


Here and now; this technique tells that the theory does not put much focus on the history of the problem of the client instead it considers problems and matters of the immediate in order to obtain the sufficient solution of the problem (Bourine & Ekstrand 1976).

Therefore basing on the theory there is no need for the counselor to spend time on looking the past history of the client and also it is not necessary for the client to give much verbal contributions toward his or her problem, since a lot of information of the client may be taken nonverbally by looking on nonverbal behaviors like breathing, feelings, voice, emotions and gestures mainly by observing through eyes and listening through ears and considering body movement.

Frustration; this technique does not imply the act of making a person feel sad or hostile but is the technique of showing negative reinforcement toward an individual in a certain act in such a way that an individual may regulate his or her situation by putting much efforts toward achieving higher so that he or she can receive positive reinforcement for instance if children who desires praise on showing respect like greetings is denied because of non satisfactory respect he or she may be putting more effort so as to ensure satisfactory respect and there for he or she will earn praise.

Assuming responsibilities; in this technique counselors are said to emphasize or teach individuals to be responsible for their actions. For instance if a person attends for an interview concerning opportunity for work if he or she fails to get the chance, rather than blame the organization for his or her failure, he or she is said to associate its failure with in adequate of preparation for the interview.
Use of personal pronouns; this technique explains about personalizing of pronouns. It encourages pronouns like “I” and “Me” rather than the impersonal pronoun like “You” by considering the fact that the use of personal pronouns like “I” and “Me” bring the problem closer to the individual hence individual associate with the problem (Nwaogu, 2002).
For example; if a learner fails in exam he/she should be responsible by saying that, “I failed the exam” and not the teacher failed me. The pronoun “I” makes the problem of fail to be closer to a student.
Role plays; this technique provide a basis for translating imagination into realities (Kassin, 2006).

In role plays individuals are said to be assigned roles for instance, one individual may act as a client and another individual may act as a counselor or therapist. After the individuals plays the role of the therapist and client then the role is reversed and therefore the one who played the role of a client tend to play the role of the counselor or therapist and vice versa.

The importance of reversing the roles is on making a client to focus on his or her undesirable behaviors so that he or she can became aware of it. Through this awareness the client becomes motivated on resolving problems. Later on after completion of the role reversal session the client is then taught desirable behaviors that he or she assimilates or recites over time. Moreover he or she is asked to implement the learnt desirable behavior into real life situation outside the counseling session.


Generally, gestalt theory or therapy requires a person to become independent rather than dependent, therefore it focuses on the present of an individual life as to come up with different challenges and problems that he or she experiences and developing full potential. It is very important because it makes it encourages the client as to be free and acting on controlling an environment in which we live.

It is obviously that human being must be flexible as to control an environment rather than fixed in nature of environmental context in the sense that an individual is being encouraged to develop a unique perspectives on life to become aware of how he or she thinks, feels and acts in the present moment to next. Thus, according to this theory it is true that the strongest man in the world is who stands alone for the purpose of development.

background of Gestalt theory, believes of the theory, goals or objectives of this theory, strategies, criticism or limitations of the theory as well as conclusion.
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background of Gestalt theory, believes of the theory, goals or objectives of this theory, strategies, criticism or limitations of the theory as well as conclusion.
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